Friday, 19 October 2012

Week23: Community Life

This week I’m staying in the first and only community during my Swenglish journey. Four adults (five with me), two kids, one cat and one horse are part of the household. The house is from the 1850s and is located in the countryside outside Umeå. The forest is everywhere and it’s quite close to the sea. Every day vegan food is served. Some days they eat together, sometimes they don't. There’s a ”cleaning spinner” to share the chores, but it’s not in use anymore. Despite that it’s as tidy as it can be with small children in the house. It’s not at all as chaotic as in Lukas Moodyson’s film ”Together” ...

In England I stayed in some households with four or five people, but that didn't make it into a community. Just because you live with more than one other person who is not family or close friend it doesn't automatically become a community. In England, at least in Brighton and other bigger cities, people live together because they have to. Not only when they are students but also when they get to their 40s or 50s. It’s common that people who don’t know each other at all put their names on a contract and move in together.

In Sweden it’s much more common that people live on their own and if you live together with someone you often choose to do so, and then it’s not for economical reasons as was my experience in England. There are communities in England as well of course, and like in Sweden they are often based around  political or spiritual beliefs. But what I’m trying to say is that in Sweden it’s not as common to live with several other people if it’s not a community and people here readily call a household with more than two people a community even if it’s not. (In Sweden we don't even have any words for "housemate" or "flatmate".)

So what makes a community into a community? Why isn't it enough just to live with several other people? I haven’t yet got a good answer, but the thing about having the same ideology and values seems to be a criteria. My host who is a "leftie" could not imagine living with people who are right-wing even if she has good discussions with them when meeting them out. She wouldn't be able to live with people who eat meat at home either. Why is it that it’s almost always left-wing people and very often vegetarians that live in communities then? Why have conservatives and meet eaters not discovered community living?

I’m now well into my twenty-third Swenglish-week and have lived with so many different people in so many different places that I think I need to live completely on my own for six months just to find out what my own life-style and my own habits are. All my life I've adjusted myself so much to the people I've lived with that I don’t know if I’m tidy or messy, if I’m an owl or a lark. Although after I've tried living on my own I’m not against the idea of a community. If only I've got a room where I can lock the door and write, things usually work out. It’s quite nice having people around, being able to choose if you want to have company or be on your own. And if people have kids there are extra baby-sitters. (In Sweden the word for baby-sitter is "child guard" ... to guard someone doesn't sound quite right!)

This week I don’t have a room of my own. But I've got a partition wall so I can have some privacy as people pass my sleeping space to go to the toilet. All in all it has been a very varied week. Yesterday I was up on the horseback and the other day I first went to an ”open nursery school” and then watched my hosts when they rehearsed with their punk band. Tomorrow I’m going to a design market and I've also discovered that they sell very good vegan sausages at the Pressbyrån newsagent

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